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Don’t Write Bad Subject Lines: An Email Marketing Guide

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Get your emails opened now!

If your company isn’t doing any email marketing, you’re missing out on some huge opportunities to bring your brand to the attention of interested people. One of the most attractive parts about direct email marketing is that you already have a list of people interested in your brand, whether they purchased something before or signed up to receive your emails. Bringing yourself back to their attention on a regular basis can help influence them to purchase again, even if they don’t open every email.

Brand Awareness and the Nudge Effect

The average open rate for marketing emails hovers around 20 percent, although yours may be slightly different depending on the quality of your mailing list and the effectiveness of your emails so far. However, this low open rate doesn’t necessarily mean you’re only influencing 20 percent of your mailing list with each email. Remember that subscribers sign up for your mailing list because they love your brand. Even if they’re not interested in every email you send, you’re reminding them you exist every time you send an email. Just seeing your brand name in their inbox may nudge them toward making a purchase, regardless of whether they open that particular message.

Clear Subject Lines Summarize Email Contents

One of the keys to making an email work for you, even if it’s not opened, is to take full advantage of the subject line. Chances are the recipient will read this line to decide whether to open the email. If you effectively communicate the essential information in this line, you may get a sale anyway. For example, send an email the day before an in-store sale with a subject line inviting people to come shop tomorrow for 20 percent off everything in the store. People who believe they’ll benefit from opening the email will open it to get more information, but even those who don’t open it will get the essentials.

Tips for crafting effective subject lines

  • Keep it short and sweet. The optimal length is 50 characters or less, which is easy to digest at a glance, even on small screens.
  • Avoid the use of features that look spammy, like “free” or “act now.” Don’t write your subject line in all caps or use a whole string of dollar signs or exclamation points to get attention. The subject line should be professional and clear.
  • Frame the subject line as a call to action, not a statement of fact. Including the verb phrase in the line lets people know exactly how they should respond if they want to take advantage of what you’re offering.
  • Add some creativity to differentiate yourself. For example, you may create a clever Twitter hashtag and use it in the subject line, which encourages people to tweet about the offer if they like it.

It can be easy to get discouraged with a low open rate, but view your marketing emails as more than separate campaigns. They’re a way to continually bring your brand to the attention of your subscribers and build positive associations. As long as you’re maintaining awareness and loyalty, your subscribers are more likely to make purchases in the future, even if they don’t open each email you send.

About the Author

Kay Ackerman is a business writer and contributor to Globial Talks Business.

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Author:Kay Ackerman

The Globial International Business Team researches, analyzes, and reports on all things related to global trade and business.


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